The Royal Navy introduced the 13.5-inch gun as the main battleship armament
with the HMS
Orion of the 1909 Program. In an instant other countries saw that
to continue to build capital ships with the old international standard main
armament of 12-inch guns, would create obsolescent ships from the start. Japan ’s answer was to do the British one better with the 14-inch gun for their
British built battle cruiser Kongo, laid down in January
1911. All future battleships would also be armed with this weapon and the first
of these was Fuso, laid down on March 11,
1912 at Kure . With Fuso,
not only did Japan trump the British in gun size but also trumped the British
and Americans in main gun quantity mounting twelve guns as opposed to the ten
guns of RN and USN contemporaries. Shorter than the Kongo, Fuso was able to carry 50% greater armament because as a battleship designed for 22
½ knots, she did not need the machinery plant of the battle cruiser design with
a maximum speed of 27 ½ knots. Of all of the factors necessary for warship
design, high speed requires the most space.
Originally laid down
with tripod masts and minimal superstructure, the Fuso and sistership Yamashiro became noted for their towering pagoda superstructure fitted during various
refits and rebuilds in the 1920s and 1930s. Because of their slow speed the pair
saw little action during World War Two, although they did sortie in an effort to
intercept Enterprise and Hornet after the Doolittle raid. They finally saw action as the southern pincer of the
Japanese attack plan in response to American landings at Leyte Gulf . The pair along with cruiser Mogami and a number of destroyers were intercepted in the Surigao Strait by layers of American and Australian defenders. First PT boats went in against
them, then destroyers and finally at the north exit to the straits, a battleline
of battleships and cruisers crossed their T. However, Fuso didn’t make it that far as one or more torpedo hits from a destroyer attack,
ignited her amidship’s magazines and she blew apart into two burning halves.
In the 1930s Tremo manufactured a model of Fuso,
called Huso in the west at the time.
It is interesting to see how far the art of 1:1250 model manufacturing has come
when one contrasts the modern Neptun Fuso,
#1204, with the Tremo model of 70 years earlier.